AppBaker lets you build your own iPhone application and from what I read on their web site; building iPad software is soon to come.
I learned recently that there is actually a name for this sort of thing, end-user computing. Another term which describes this area is knowledge-based engineering. Here is a definition of knowledge-based engineering:
KBE (knowledge-based engineering) can be defined as engineering on the basis of electronic knowledge models. Such knowledge models are the result of knowledge modeling that uses knowledge representation techniques to create the computer interpretable models.
Another way I have put this in the past is that XBRL has a "shape". Unlike native XML where you can go in any direction, XBRL provides "lines" that you have to stay within. Now, if you look at XBRL from a technical syntax perspective this notion is still applicable but if you add a logical model layer on top of the XBRL technical syntax things get much more interesting. Why? Because while the XBRL technical syntax is too hard for business users to work with, the logical model significantly easy to work with.
My vision is that financial reporting would work a lot like TurboTax which is an easy to use interface for creating tax returns; except that "TurboFinancialReporting" would be different in that the user can "change the forms". What I mean by that is that while TurboTax is easy enough to use, it can only be used for filling out US Tax Forms. But what if you exposed the taxonomy (i.e. metadata) to the user and allowed the user to edit that metadata? They remove the US Tax Form metadata, pop in the US GAAP Taxonomy metadata, and then you can create a financial report rather than a tax return.
Now, this may be too much of a leap for most people to make but from what I am seeing, I predect that this sort of application will exist within two years, maybe sooner.
Why would such an application, a "TurboFinancialReporting" application, be better than current approaches to creating financial reports? Here is why:
- With current approaches such as Microsoft Word, how much does the software application understand about financial reporting? Zero. But TurboFinancialReporting does understand financial reporting.
- With current approaches such as Microsoft Word, the software cannot help you be sure that the numbers add up correctly. But TurboFinancialReporting can be sure that information adds up correctly and is otherwise complete, correct, consistent, accurate, has fidelity, and has integrity.
- Reuse of the information is possible by analysts, regulators, or others without rekeying the information.
- Basically many things can be better, cheaper, and faster.
And you don't even need to exchange information using the XBRL global standard format to derive value from this new approach to financial reporting which I call digital financial reporting. But, you can and likely will.
Finally, this same approach which is being proven by the SEC's use of XBRL for financial reporting of public companies can be used for many other types of business reporting. Just think of XBRL as a payload of numbers and text which a business user can create and maintain by themselves, without the IT department or any programmer ever getting involved. Somewhat of a "semantic spreadsheet".